First to last? Frogs that leap? Friendly touchy liaisons? Fatties taste lasagne? Fug the law? FTL can stand for anything you like, baby, but here it mostly means Faster Than Light.
It’s no exaggeration to say that FTL is one of the most beloved indie games of the past few years, with many a thumb raised in approval by critics and players alike. Here it is for the iPad, and while it’s clearly brilliant, I’m not sure how much I like it. Thought streams below.
FTL is a “roguelike”, which means it’s procedurally generated and hella difficult, with death resulting in “permadeath”: bite the proverbial bullet and it’s time to start from scratch.
Described as a “spaceship simulation game”, you’re tasked with jumping from sector to sector, with the ultimate goal of delivering data “vital to the remaining Federation fleet” – all while being pursued by evil rebels.
Within each sector, you’ll jump from location to location (maybe around half a dozen per sector), and at each, one of a number of things might happen.
Maybe you’ll find a distress call, a shop, an asteroid field, a hostile pirate ship, evil slavers on the lookout for new meat, or – sometimes – nothing at all.
Of course, being procedurally generated, each FTL playthrough is significantly different. Even a distress call, for example, will yield one of several possibilities, including a ship with no fuel, a colony fighting an infection, an ambush…
There’s also a ton of stuff going on aboard your FTL ship (which you’re free to name, incidentally). Among other things, it’s necessary to manage fuel reserves, carry out repairs, distribute power to different areas of the ship as required, install upgrades… The list goes on and on and on, but – to FTL’s credit – it’s all very intuitive.
Where FTL falls down somewhat, for me, is the difficulty. You can be cruising along for 30 minutes with everything going relatively well, only to die in one brief, and utterly horrific, encounter.
The worst part is watching on as your missiles repeatedly miss enemy ships, while your ship takes an absolute pounding. Perhaps, to add insult to injury, you’ll be boarded, and suddenly tasked with a) targeting, b) conducting repairs, c) putting out fires, and d) meeting the intruders. It’s utterly overwhelming, but intentionally so.
It is possible to adjust FTL’s difficulty (easy, normal or hard), but even on the easiest setting, I found myself struggling to make any significant progress. For some, however, that’s all part of the, er, fun.
On the whole, I did really enjoy FTL, it’s just irksome having to start from scratch every time, and dying often feels random. On the plus side, you’re getting the Advanced Edition included (new ships, enemies, events, weapons…), and the soundtrack is great.
- A unique experience each time
- Lots going on, but highly intuitive
- The soundtrack
- It’s hella difficult
- Starting from scratch can be irksome
- Feels random at times
Summary: If you can get past the difficulty and the randomness, FTL is arguably one of the best games available on the iPad. Indeed, the iPad release is widely being hailed as the “definitive version” of FTL. Check it out.
Developer: Subset Games
Price: £6.99 @ App Store
Compatibility: Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPad 2 and above.